Hearing the news of another installment in the Predator franchise didn’t bold any amount of interest. However, with a prequel concept and the fact Dan Trachtenberg is doing it, I had to say, “Go on.” Anytime we talk about Predator, the 1987 classic directed by John McTiernan is one of the nostalgic sci-fi of its time, thanks to the action and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But, unfortunately, none of the following sequels have even come close to the original’s greatness. I haven’t watched Predator 2 in a long time, never touched the Alien vs. Predator movies (for obvious reasons), and I’m one of the few who didn’t mind 2010’s Predators. The last time we saw this creature on the big screen was the Shane Black-directed The Predator, which was not only one of the worst movies I saw in 2018 but a major disappointment. With the latest streaming on Hulu, all fans want is the series to take it back to basics and just be badass. Luckily, Prey is the Predator follow-up I’ve always wanted to see.
Set in the Comanche Nation in 1719, this follows a young woman named Naru (Amber Midthunder), a fierce and highly skilled warrior. She has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains, so when danger threatens her camp, she sets out to protect her people. The prey she stalks, and ultimately confronts, turns out to be a highly evolved alien predator with a technically advanced arsenal, resulting in a vicious and terrifying showdown between the two adversaries.
This film works because it’s refreshing to see Trachtenberg finally get behind the camera again. The last film he did was 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane and he hasn’t done much else besides the pilot of The Boys. Whether he was a fan of the original, he understood what makes this effective is the building suspense needed. The fact it’s all about when the Predator arrives on Earth in the eighteenth century made it contained feeling a smaller scale for the budget they’re working with. Much of the first half, he and writer Patrick Aison take advantage of not taking everything too big to make this new story feel bloated and changes the vibe to fit nicely into this universe much different from other entries (similar to what Trachtenberg did with 10 Cloverfield Lane). Everything’s outside in nature of the Great Plains. The simplicity of it all to keep it familiar didn’t bother me since I didn’t watch Prey to be amazed or anything, nor expect it to be better. We’re dealing with a time when the warriors relied on their talents to fend against evil rather than rifles or other sophisticated weapons.
Amber Midthunder is going on the list of names to recognize by year’s end with her commanding performance as Naru, carrying this film on her shoulders. I loved how they didn’t rely on having big-time actors in here just to be killed off quickly. When Naru is with her brothers and his pals, she also wants to go hunting, making him seem like the obnoxious sibling who also wants to play along. It’s a character that doesn’t speak a lot, but we’re following her through her determination on a journey to capture/ kill this Predator by herself. I haven’t recognized Midthunder from anything else (I never watched Legion), but she is a total badass here. She even has an adorable tracking dog, Sarii, to accompany her and hopes nothing bad happens. There are only two characters to care about mainly: her and her brother Taabe, who had a solid sibling dynamic. And Dakota Beavers made his first acting debut; I wouldn’t even know.
And when you have Trachtenberg, I was excited about what he would bring to make Predator’s presence threatening. However, it took its time where it didn’t show it off completely, as the alien uses invisible camouflage frequently, figuring out who’s the biggest prey. But when the violence goes down, it’s the blood fest to please most. I remembered being worried about this being PG-13; that was probably just a rumor. But, this was through and through R-rated like the rest, and it delivers on some unforgettable moments. One of them involved a grizzly bear who got its ass kicked, and the other was a killer battle in this burnt forest that’ll go down as one of the most incredible moments in the entire franchise. On a technical level, the action and setting captured from Jeff Cutter’s cinematography is breathtaking through each frame in its establishing shots, and the sound design is the most impressive for a streaming film, especially when Naru practices throwing her ax at a tree or Predator’s signature clicking noises.
Besides a few scenes that slowed the film and a few dodgy CGI, I got distracted whenever the Comanche tribe spoke in English. There isn’t a lot, but I would’ve liked them to use their language that had to sound modern. There’s a Comanche dub out there that I want to see. There’s also a portion in the middle where Naru gets caught by these French fur trappers that were over-the-top characters that this didn’t need. I’ll echo the same sentiments as everyone by saying this would’ve been an excellent time to witness in the theater and I think it might’ve provided decent numbers at the box office. This is the type of movie Fox shouldn’t have just released online since people actually liked it, including me. I want to see a sequel where it’s the Predator at a different time. Could we see it fighting dinosaurs?
Prey had Dan Trachtenberg throwing together the most watchable sequel in the Predator series. It’s a familiar back-to-basics formula that works with Midthunder’s star-making performance and memorable action to keep the staying power alive for longtime fans.
Prey is now streaming on Hulu. Runtime: 100 Minutes. Rated R for strong bloody violence. Studio: Hulu/ 20th Century Studios.